LONDON — Raytheon has discussed a possible pooling arrangement with three navies in northern Europe to make its SM-3 ballistic missile interceptor more affordable, according to a senior company executive.
Speaking after a successful test of a new data link enabling the SM-3 to communicate with X-band radars operated by Dutch, Danish and German warships, George Mavko, director of European missile defense at Raytheon Missile Systems, said the idea of a pooling arrangement had been raised by the company, even though none of the countries are pursuing procurement at this point.
“One of the things we have discussed with the Dutch and Germans is the idea of a pool of SM-3 missiles. ... Discussions have also just got underway over the possibility of bringing Denmark into any future pooling arrangement,” Mavko said.
“Say, in the future, the Dutch, Germans and Danes got together to procure a pool of SM-3s; then they can each dip into that pool as their warships take on NATO ballistic missile defense assignments,” he said.
The idea has also stimulated interest in NATO where the potential to pool and share capabilities is becoming a priority as alliance members face budget belt tightening.
While all three European navies have expressed an interest in the capability of the SM-3 to engage ballistic missiles at ranges outside the atmosphere, none appear close to actually procuring the missiles.
“We love the capability but just don’t have the money,” said one European military official.
Instead, led by the Dutch, the initial moves appear focused on updating naval X-band radars and other systems so they can provide target data to SM-3 missiles even if they can’t prosecute their own attack.
“The Netherlands has no plans to acquire naval ballistic-missile defense shooter capability. For the coming years, we are focusing on implementing naval ballistic missile defense sensor capability through the SMART-L radar,” a spokesman for the Dutch Defense Ministry said.
“Current talks with both the U.S. government and industry are limited to developing and embedding naval ballistic missile defense capability, as it’s one of NATO’s shortfalls,” the spokesman said.
The message from Denmark is similar. “At this point, Denmark has not made any concrete decisions to acquire or develop Danish missile defense capabilities, including acquiring or pooling SM-3 missiles with other countries,” said a spokesman for Denmark’s MoD.
The German Defense Ministry said it is not in talks with Raytheon at this time to buy SM-3s, and said there are no group discussions among Germany, the Netherlands and Raytheon about a pooled procurement arrangement.
A spokesman said concepts about national missile defense are being evaluated, and that “first proposals about the possible options are supposed to be developed before the end of 2013.’’
NATO has made European ballistic missile defense a greater priority amid nuclear proliferation and the potential threat of long-range missiles from countries such as Iran.
Aside from the pooling idea, Raytheon also recently opened discussions with the U.S. Missile Defense Agency over co-production of SM-3 systems in Europe to sweeten any future deal, Mavko said.
An agency spokesman did not
return a call seeking comment.
Small bits of the missile are already produced in Europe, although it was “too early to imply the U.S. is willing to release any major subsystems to other countries for co-production,” Mavko said.
The Europeans moved a step closer to their limited goals on naval ballistic missile defense when a Raytheon-developed dual-band data link successfully demonstrated the SM-3 will work with X-band radars.
In its current guise, the SM-3 can be employed only from the U.S. Navy’s Aegis combat weapon system, which uses an S-band radar to provide targeting data.
Mavko said the company has to perform further development and qualification testing on the data link to become production ready. The expectation is that that will be completed by the end of 2014, he said.
Spain and Norway operate Aegis equipped warships, but neither
Raytheon has been cooperating with the Dutch Navy for several years, exploring the potential of the SM-3 to talk to X-band radars. The Dutch have co-funded a study with the U.S. government on the feasibility of a dual-band data link; the study is due to be extended into a second phase. The German government has agreed to participate this time.
Mavko said Raytheon also is in the early phases of discussing with the Missile Defense Agency plans to fund and integrate the dual-band data link into the latest SM-3 Block 1B version of the missile destined for the U.S. Navy. “Our objective is to avoid building a niche weapon for one application,” he said.
The new data link will eliminate the need for separate inventories of Standard Missiles for the new Zumwalt (X-band) destroyers and Aegis (S-band) cruisers and destroyers. Ë